VICTORIA – The first two hybrid electric BC Ferries vessels have officially embarked on their roughly 45-day voyage from Romania to Victoria.

The Island Class vessels are equipped with batteries that can supply the ship with full electric power. For now, however, the ships will use hybrid diesel-electric technology until further shore charging infrastructure becomes available at terminals.

The ships will be able to carry 47 vehicles and up to 300 passengers and are designed to reduce underwater noise, according to BC Ferries.

The first two hybrid ships are being transported to Victoria on a semi-submersible vessel called the Sun Rise. Once the Sun Rise completes its journey to Victoria's Point Hope Maritime berth, the vessel will be able to submerge itself slightly to allow the two hybrid ferries to float into the berth, before refloating itself by pumping water out of its ballast tanks. 

The Sun Rise will make its 10,305-nautical mile journey from Romania to Victoria by travelling through the Panama Canal and then sailing up the west coast of North America. To follow the ship's journey, people can visit to track the ship's progress. 

Once the two Island Class hybrid ferries arrive in Victoria, the ships will receive a final inspection and christening before crews board them to begin training. The two electric ferries are expected to enter service in mid-2020 for a number of routes, including the Powell River – Texada Island route and the Port McNeill – Alert Bar – Sointula routes.

While the first two Island Class ferries have yet to enter service, BC Ferries has already announced the construction of four more hybrid ferries from the Netherlands-based manufacturer, Damen Shipyards Group. 

Damen Shipyards Group is responsible for building the first two hybrid ferries, with the next four expected to enter service in 2022.

According to BC Ferries, in July 2018 the company issued a request for expressions of interest for construction of the ferries to both Canadian and international shipbuilders. Out of the 18 total shipyards that expressed interested, none were Canadian.